Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen, illustrated by Shiei
Do you like Pride & Prejudice? Do you like beautifully drawn and immensely appealing manga? If you answered yes to one (or both) of these questions, then this nearly 600 page version of Jane Austen’s classic novel is for you. The gorgeous rendering of the characters and locations here, and the many beautiful drawings, adorns what is (as the publisher properly notes) a timeless classic, and makes this reader at least wonder if there is an entire anime movie in this style that shows the story in its full glory. I would watch this anime in a heartbeat, if one were done, and I suspect that a great many of other people would as well. There has been no shortage of successful efforts at updating the story or in showing how it can appeal in a wide variety of adaptations and approaches–I have seen the story compellingly transferred to Bollywood as well as Mormon romance, and now manga, and it works well, largely because the illustrator here gets what makes Elizabeth so appealing and Darcy so appealing as a husband for her. The illustrator also gets the supporting characters, viewing Mrs. Bennet as a figure of fun as well as the elegance of Jane and so on and so forth.
There are a great many ways that one can successfully cope with the excellence of Jane Austen’s prose in this novel. One can leave it alone, one can add to it annotations that demonstrate the connections that Jane Austen was making with the military and economic and social situation of the time, one can transfer the story to other milieux to demonstrate the fundamental worth of the author’s setup of an intelligent young woman in a family that requires at least one daughter to marry well in a situation where there are few suitable men and a great deal of importance in showing the proper social graces, which usually means looking at a kind of traditional society where the heroine is a competent woman but ultimately one who has the proper sense of decorum and virtue to attract the worthy hero. The illustrator manages to combine a sharp eye for the detail of fancy houses and carriages and clothing as well as for the importance of dances and letters and conversations in determining the destiny of the young women at the heart of this novel, and that makes this an easy novel to appreciate, with gorgeous illustrations done in the best Regency manga style.